This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Aug 1998: Holomisa, Patekile
POM. My first question to you was, the last time we met you had made peace with the ANC and all seemed hunky dory so to speak, now you say -
PH. That was a joke. I don't know, it has not been confirmed, but someone was telling me while I was having lunch in town that he heard over the radio that the ANC is investigating me over allegations I made to the effect that the reason there is violence between the ANC and the UDM in Richmond in KwaZulu/Natal Midlands is because the ANC refuses to speak to the UDM. But of course that is not yet confirmed, I haven't heard it myself. I would imagine it emanates from a speech I made in a conference on political violence in Umtata recently where I called on all parties whose members are involved in violence, that is the leaders of those parties, to get down to talks so that they can establish exactly what it is that is causing the violence and such an approach to violence might even help establish whether or not there are third force elements as it seems there are.
POM. I was surprised when the ANC categorically rejected the UDM's request or suggestion that the two parties have talks to try to get at the root of the problem, particularly when they use the excuse that all it would do would be to enhance the political stature of the UDM as though the UDM was using the violence as a way to gain some political leverage.
PH. That could be true, it could be true that it wants to get some status of some kind but my concern is not whether anyone gets status or not but it is the lives of the people, ordinary people, that are being lost, the livelihood that is being disrupted, people having to leave their homes and so on. I made the point even when I made the speech in Umtata, which I believe is the one which they are referring to. I said for over many decades the apartheid government refused to speak to the ANC and millions of lives were lost in the process. It was only after people died that the protagonists all agreed that they needed to sit down and talk. Coming closer to home the ANC and the IFP have been engaged in internecine violence and internecine killings in KwaZulu/Natal and even on the Rand and it was only when negotiations started to take place between the leadership of the two organisations that the violence subsided because now their followers could see that the leadership is no longer only hurling accusations and counter-accusations against the various organisations but were actually saying that there is a need for an end to this violence. So I am saying even with the UDM one doesn't know whether UDM is just an imaginary structure that is likely to die down or whether it's going to be a formidable force. So whether or not you talk to them their future lies on the question whether the people themselves believe in them so it is important therefore that if talks can contribute towards the achievement of peace then they should be resorted to.
POM. I'm going to go to Richmond next weekend, could you suggest some people there that I should talk to?
PH. I am not familiar with the people there on the ground except that I know Sifiso Nkabinde, the UDM leader in the area, and I know Zweli Mkhize, a leader of the ANC in the provincial structures in the province.
POM. Would you be able to give me telephone numbers for them so that I could ring them?
PH. I could find out, I don't have them.
POM. OK, I'd appreciate that. Just talking for a moment about the UDM, many people have said to me that it has a lot of support in the Transkei and that it could actually make some serious inroads into the ANC's constituency there. Do you think that's an accurate assessment?
PH. Well I seem to understand myself too that a lot of people are speaking positively about the UDM, in positive terms about the UDM in the Transkei, because at the time the UDM leader was ruling the Transkei as part of the Military Council I think they enjoyed relative peace compared to what was happening previously when the Matanzima's were in power when there was a lot of repression, and there was relative freedom under the Military Council. At the same time when the liberation movements were unbanned and the leaders allowed back into the country and out of jail a lot of them were able to move freely in the Transkei under the protection of the military government of that time.
POM. Chris Hani spent a lot of his time there.
PH. Yes that's right, of course that was his home. At the same time when the SA Police wanted to arrest him he was able to get protection from the military government and was not arrested. Now the other factor is the conditions in the rural areas in the Transkei; at the time before independence, before liberation, the unemployment situation was not as bad as it is now. During that time people were, in fact under the oppressive regimes, people were somewhat forced to go and seek work in the urban areas, in the mines and factories and so on, and now they are being retrenched and they find themselves at home without any source of income and they blame this on the government, that the government hasn't done enough to ensure that this does not happen. So all of these people who are disgruntled now tended to want to believe that perhaps the UDM, which is led by someone they are familiar with, would make things better. There are the civil servants who seem also to be disgruntled. The location of the administrative capital for the Eastern Cape to be at Bisho has caused some disruption in the lives of the many civil servants who are based in the Transkei because they had to re-locate to Bisho and it seems as if the treatment that was meted out to them by the new administrators was also not so well received. They tended to be treated as corrupt in themselves, not just the system within which they had been working, but that they themselves were corrupt. So that too has tended to alienate the leadership of the government in the Eastern Cape, in the Transkei.
POM. You had said the last time we talked that the ANC was urban biased.
PH. Yes it still is.
POM. It still is, and yet a huge part of its constituency, I think you said 18 million people -
PH. Are in the traditional authority areas.
POM. Yes. What's happening in the traditional areas? Is the Council of Traditional Chiefs off and running, functioning, exercising power? Are any attempts being made to integrate Chiefs into local government structures? Is it recognised that they must be given a role or local government simply won't work?
PH. The Council of Traditional Leaders was established, I think, in April last year but it hasn't done anything that is of note as far as I am aware. Most of the work, most of the interaction which is meaningful between the government and traditional leaders takes place between Contralesa and government and to some extent also at a provincial level between the Houses of Traditional Leaders and the provincial legislatures or government. But there is nothing that I can say, no progress has been registered with regard to the complaints that traditional leaders have been having with the government ever since it was inaugurated.
POM. Nothing happened about their complaints?
PH. Very little has been done. For instance, there has been some increase in the salaries of some of the categories of traditional leaders but this has been happening erratically and on an ad hoc basis and there is still no uniformity in the payment of salaries of traditional leaders of the same rank even though there has been now a Cabinet decision that has been taken which commits government to making traditional leaders' salaries of the same rank to be uniform but that has still not taken place and it has not yet been implemented. With regard to the local government, the situation is still the same. Local government is still being fashioned in a manner that undermines the role of traditional leaders. The proposals before government, that the government has put forward, are such that the government is still searching for ways of accommodating traditional leadership but they seem to feel that, that is the government, traditional leaders should not be full participants in local government matters. They still seem to believe that there could be a separation between local government matters in rural areas and traditional and customary cultural matters and we are maintaining that there is no such distinction between matters of tradition and matters of local government because each one will impact on the other one way or the other and that because traditional leaders have always been administrators since time immemorial their place is where political decisions have to be taken and they cannot be token members of local councils.
POM. Do you think that unless this issue is resolved it will inevitably lead to the breakdown of local government in traditional areas?
PH. Well already there is no evidence of there being local government in the rural areas in spite of the fact that the structures have been put up. Most of the members of these local councils were elected in the 1995 election, they live in the rural areas but they don't have offices, for instance, in the rural areas.
POM. They don't have?
PH. Offices from which to operate, to carry out their duties and responsibilities. Their offices are being opened up in the towns, in the nearby towns, so that you find that people if they need services of a local government nature they must trek to the cities or to the towns in order to meet their representatives who are supposed to be amongst them and yet at the same time tribal authorities are there, they are still in the rural area and they are the structures that are suitably based to take up the constituency of traditional leaders. We had thought that after the election of local councillors then because they have the same constituency as the traditional leaders, the government would use the Tribal Authority offices and improve them in order to make sure that the work of the councillors and the traditional leaders is done jointly and for the promotion of the living conditions of the people and also to bring government close to the people but that has not happened.
POM. Why do you think government is still so adamant about making traditional leaders, as it were, token members of local government structures but essentially excluding them from the process given the fact that they know that traditional leaders have for centuries been the administrators of local government in traditional areas?
PH. One can only say it's because they dislike the fact that traditional leaders exercise so much influence, which influence they would rather was exercised by political parties. We are a multi-party state now and it is in the nature of multi-party politics that each political party will want all power to be vested in itself and it is not acceptable that somebody else who has not been elected into office must exercise the kind of influence that traditional leaders are exercising. It would have made sense to me if political parties, especially a governing political party like the ANC, were to make friends with traditional leaders because traditional leaders are not essentially hungry for political power but they have a responsibility to ensure that the heritage that has been passed down to them by their forebears should not be cast away just like that. They have a responsibility towards their people and towards their ancestors and as long as no-one has convinced them that their role is no longer there, there is no way that they can voluntarily withdraw from the active political life of their people.
POM. So if you were to look at rural areas in general, have the poor gotten poorer?
PH. It seems to me to be so, it seems to be the case. Like I was telling you that more people now in the rural areas are being forced to go back to the rural areas from the cities instead of the other way round. Forced not by government of course but by circumstances, lack of job opportunities and things like that. I know that it is the economic situation, global economic situation worldwide that is responsible but I also believe that if government were to engage seriously the representatives of rural communities, that is traditional leaders, and any other rural based political representatives of the people, ways could be found of finding some kind of employment for those people through RDP programmes. Roads are in an appalling state and yet there is supposed to be money and the money that used to be channelled through tribal authorities to have them make those roads, maintain them, repair them, is now no longer being transmitted through those tribal authorities. One supposed that it is being transferred to the local government councils but it doesn't really reach the people and, of course, the policies relating to agriculture, I don't think they have yet been properly formulated enough for them to address the situation in the rural areas. The money, for instance, that is what Contralesa keeps saying, that is being used for housing development, that money is meant for everyone who qualifies and almost every household in the rural areas qualifies for that housing grant but they don't see the need for government to build houses for them. They believe that that money should be used for something else like the provision of agricultural implements, tractors, irrigation systems, seed, fertiliser, things like that. If they were to be given that money in order to get those things I am sure they would be able to eke out some kind of a reasonable living.
POM. So their first consideration isn't getting money to build a house, it's getting money to try to invest it in some way or to make a living? So if given a choice they would use the money for a different purpose?
PH. That's right, rural people are still not represented in this government properly in spite of the fact that there are members of parliament who may be even coming from the rural areas, in spite of the fact that there are provincial governments and in spite of the fact that there are local councils, their concerns have still not been articulated and acted upon in the manner in which I believe they should be.
POM. Is there any separate kind of caucus of MPs from rural areas who as a group make their presence more felt?
PH. No there isn't because one imagines that you don't want to appear to be propagating unpopular causes within the same organisation in which you have other people who come from other areas. I suppose they still don't have the guts, the courage, to come out and speak more forcefully. There are so many that I could even say, the majority of the MPs here are from the rural areas but they do not fully articulate the concerns of the rural community and the leadership itself I think the majority of them are not based in the rural areas, they are based in the cities. They have lost touch with base.
POM. Is there any way in which this could rebound against the ANC in the next elections?
PH. I fear it might, it might, because to the people in the rural areas the conditions were bad before liberation but they expected that there would be changes in their lives. There isn't much change. Well of course a lot has been done, one has to concede that water has been brought to many people and electricity has been installed in many villages and telephone lines have been installed in almost every village.
POM. Telephone lines have?
PH. Yes. But not to the extent that you can say each and every corner of the country has water because you cannot think of a situation where in the cities there could be a residential area that is established without water being simultaneously provided and yet there are millions of people still who live in settlements, communal settlements, where water is still being carted from the river.
POM. So what do you see, what kind of resolution do you see emerging?
PH. I don't know, I can't see any because I don't seem to see any evidence of any change in strategy being developed.
POM. That's change in strategy on the part of the Department of Constitutional Development?
PH. I have seen the white paper on local government. It does give recognition to the importance of traditional leaders playing a role in the affairs of the community, in the affairs of local communities, but it doesn't go far enough. It says we are still, however, looking for a way of accommodating or defining that role. Now it has further again delayed the conclusion of this question by setting out to bring out a white paper on traditional authorities.
POM. That paper hasn't been - ?
PH. I think it's still being worked upon.
POM. Do you get to have a say with regard to what goes into that white paper, are you consulted?
PH. We've held meetings, we've been consulted by the department but the impression we're getting is that that consultation is meant to answer the question, "Have traditional leaders been consulted before this position was adopted?" because you tend to find that the position that was obtaining before consultation still obtains, nothing of significance has changed. So I do not know as to whether this white paper is going to come out with a position that takes cognisance of the submissions that have been made by traditional leaders. At the same time the President is concerned about this and he has the same understanding of what traditional leaders should be doing as we do but for some reason it doesn't seem, that understanding, to be shared by the rest of his government or his party.
POM. But you would think that a man of his stature, if he told his government to do something about it, that he wanted action taken, that in fact the action would be taken.
PH. That is what has always puzzled me because it doesn't happen that way. For instance, recently he has been to the Eastern Cape and the kind of public speeches he made convinced me that he sees no reason why traditional leaders should not continue to work but working together with the elected local councils and even politicians at other levels of government. But you find situations where provincial or branches of the ANC or even provincial congresses of the ANC would take resolutions to the effect that certain levels of the institution of traditional leadership must be done away with, like that traditional authorities must be abolished, yet in fact those levels are the pillars of the institution of traditional leadership and in fact the tribal authorities are the official government structures through which traditional leaders can carry out their responsibilities. Now this contradicts the position that is articulated by the President at one level.
POM. Have you brought this to his attention?
PH. We have. Fortunately he is receptive now to our representations to him. We tell him about these things but nothing is happening so the situation is becoming even worse. We are also talking to the Deputy President because the President instructed him to continue the formal discussions between Contralesa and the government and soon we will be holding another meeting with him.
POM. Is the Deputy President sympathetic?
PH. I do not know but he understands our concerns. I do not know whether he is sympathetic or not because we haven't come to a stage where we now are in a position to hear what the government has to say to our representations. The last meeting we had with him was basically about us informing him of our concerns. The next round we expect him and his government to respond.
POM. Where do you see things going in the next election? Do you see the ANC doing as well as it has in the last one?
PH. I expect it to win the elections but I doubt if it is going to win with the same margin that it did last time.
POM. Who do you think are going to be the net gainers from the ANC losses? Most surveys show that support for the NP has at least halved.
PH. Well the NP is part of the past, it can't be seen as part of the future. A lot of people see that. Some of its supporters already are joining the DP which seems to be progressively taking over the positions that NP has been holding and as such it has much more credibility than the NP even though it also belongs to the past, the DP, because it was never in power so it was always in opposition. But the traditional supporters of the NP appear to find comfort in the DP. So it might gain insofar as the NP loses. But inroads will be made by parties like the UDM and perhaps even the PAC into the areas of the ANC, but not to the extent that the ANC will not be in a position to continue to rule.
POM. Do you see any revitalisation in the PAC as a result of Stanley Magoba becoming their president?
PH. As far as I know I don't think there has been any change in fact because of the leadership, the entry into leadership of Reverend Magoba. I have no evidence of any improvement except that there is concern amongst the ranks of the African community that the government's policies tended to be about accommodating the concerns of the whites, whites not only in the country but the international business community as well or the western governments. The government does not seem to want to accept the political and business leadership of the west so there are concerns that the African section is not being given the attention that it deserves. If you look, for instance, on the question of land it is the whites who benefit most from the land reform programme.
POM. It's the whites?
PH. Who benefit the most.
POM. From the land reform programme?
PH. Yes, even though it is known that they acquired the land by illegitimate means and as such they ought to be restoring it without them getting any compensation, they are getting compensated and they become millionaires because at the price of the land that the government buys, it pays to acquire that land, even if it is in terms of the restitution process, it is determined by the market and the market is not controlled by government or by blacks, it is controlled by capital and the capital is still white.
POM. So are many white farmers selling?
PH. No there aren't many that are selling but those who do sell make a lot of money.
POM. What about this whole question of the murder of white farmers?
PH. One doesn't know what the cause of that is. One suspects that it's people who are hungry, who are unemployed who rob these people. Sometimes they take their bakkies, their motor vehicles and sometimes they take their weapons and also take their money and I believe that the articles that they take, except for money, they take in order to sell them. I don't think there is a political agenda of any kind on the part of those who perpetrate these crimes, just as there is no political agenda on the part of those who commit housebreaking in the suburbs of the city. It's just that the incidents are isolated towards the murders regarding farmers and the people themselves live, they are isolated from each other. If you have driven across the country you find one farmhouse about ten kilometres away from the next one. So once these murders take place they get a lot of publicity because they are unusual, unlike the case in the cities where they happen almost every hour.
POM. So you feel that the farmers who feel they are under siege, so to speak -
PH. They are under siege from crimes, from criminals rather, in my view, and it's not going to be very easy for the police to give them the protection they need because, like I said, they are so isolated from each other.
POM. There is no network of hooking up through - ?
PH. I imagine they do have, they must have cellular phones and things like that. They have always had phones but I don't know if that would be enough to deter criminals from attacking them.
POM. So when you look at the future, do you see a new SA emerging that is abandoning in some way its rural component and concentrating its resources and attention on urban areas?
PH. No, I don't see that kind of a future for SA. I see a future where a lot of concentration will be directed now, attention will be directed at the cities, no, rather at the rural areas. In fact already departments like the Department of Trade & Industry are encouraging people to set up industries relating to crafts and beadwork and things like that. There are villages, cultural villages are being encouraged, people are being encouraged to set them up so that they can both be tourist centres and also be the centres where goods can be manufactured and sold overseas. No there will be more and more attention being paid to them.
POM. How do you expect a Mbeki government to be different from a Mandela government?
PH. I think the Mbeki government will pay much more attention to developing the under-privileged sectors of SA society. Mandela's term was about forging reconciliation between the blacks and the whites in the country and this has tended to result in a form of neglect for the conditions of the poor. So I think now that the parameters for reconciliation have been set then Mbeki will be in a position to concentrate on the lot of the poor.
POM. Now he has already said in his famous 'Two Nations' speech that this is still a country of two nations, that not much has really changed in the years since the abolition of apartheid, that not much progress has been made towards reconciliation, that whites still enjoy all the privileges they used to enjoy, that the poor if anything are getting poorer, that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is increasing not diminishing.
PH. I agree with him entirely when he speaks like that.
POM. What kind of action must be taken?
PH. Well they have these laws that are being adopted by parliament, like Employment Equity Bill, Skills Development Bill, those laws are intended to ensure that no more will business continue to enjoy profits at the expense of the ordinary working class of the country, that the accumulation of profit must go hand in hand with the betterment of the working conditions of those who produce that wealth, that there must be no more exploitation. I think they will try to balk initially, people like investors and other industrialists, but because they know the potential that this country has economically, the resources that are still there, they will come to terms with the fact that we shall have to do these things but it's not going to be easy, it's going to be difficult because, like I say, the market for which every industry works is controlled elsewhere.
POM. When you say it's controlled elsewhere, it's controlled by global forces?
POM. So in a way when it comes to economic policy of any sort the capacity of SA to chart its own course is severely limited by external constraints.
PH. That's true.
POM. It might have a wish list of what it might want to do but unfortunately -
PH. I think what is going to be important is for his government to be able to communicate those difficulties to the citizens of the land.